Oct 222013 Tagged with , , , ,

Has “Customer Engagement” Lost Its Meaning?

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It’s hardly possible to go an hour these days without hearing the term, “customer engagement” in one form or another. Marketers, business owners, and consultants all reach out to us with headlines that seem to scream, “How to engage your customer” or, “5 tips to improve customer engagement.”

But anyone who has been in the business world a while knows that when a trendy term is bandied about enough, it quickly loses its luster, and often its meaning as well.

Before tossing the term out at your next meeting, take a minute or two to break down what we mean when we say “customer engagement.” The term can be applied to a wide variety of industries, each of which is reaching out to customers in its own unique way. Retail businesses reach out to customers in an entirely different way than B2B-focused firms.

For call centers, customer engagement involves both understanding and responding to customer needs. It means listening to their story, understanding and acknowledging the emotional context of the call, and building some degree of rapport with the customer.  The concept of engagement suggests leaving room for a personal connection to develop, and empowering your CSRs with a reasonable degree of autonomy to settle customer issues. It also means meeting the customer where they are in terms of their preferred communication channel.

While many businesses today focus on reaching out to customers through social media, our research shows that 55% of customers prefer to interact with a business over the phone. E-mail and chat were still preferred to Facebook and Twitter, which only 1% of respondents ranked as their preferred contact methods.

Customer engagement is important to businesses today, but our survey results beg the question: is social media as crucial in customer service as businesses think? Is social media an “engaged” channel of service and support? It seems perhaps not.

Here are a few tips to help call centers beef up customer engagement:

  • Answer the telephone. Customers have spoken. Instead of directing your CSRs to man your social media sites, your customers may be better served by providing more CSRs to take calls.
  • Used canned responses sparingly. While most respondents to our survey found that receiving a generic article about a submitted problem, customers can easily get frustrated. Always offer a telephone option to capture those customers who need more customized help.
  • Connect personally. Customers want a personalized response, whether it comes through social media, e-mail, or phone. Interestingly, Facebook users were more interested in personal responses than both Twitter users and those who didn’t use social media at all.

When it comes to customer service, call centers are realizing the importance of personalized interactions. The customer wants to be “engaged” on an individual, one-on-one level rather than feeling as if he or she is simply a number. By treating each customer as if he or she is the only customer, call centers can demonstrate the true meaning of customer engagement.